Natural Capital Concepts in Higher Education - the NCI survey report


Natural Capital Ireland surveyed higher-level educators across Ireland to better understand how ecosystem services and natural capital concepts are currently being incorporated into their courses. Our survey found that the concepts are now being taught across a wide variety of disciplines and departments...but there is much room for development of resources.


Over 75% of respondents currently teach natural capital and ecosystem services approaches in their curriculum, either as part of a module or a full module. Educators reported teaching the concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services across more than fifty different modules across Irish third-level institutions, ranging from botany and zoology to fashion buying and rural tourism.


Table...Survey responses to question on reasons why they include ecosystem services and natural capital concepts in teaching


Benefits

The majority of respondents agreed that the concepts were beneficial for introducing students to systems thinking and interdisciplinary approaches. Educators reported that their students generally engaged well with the subject, while multiple respondents pointed out the broader benefits of raising awareness of environmental issues among students and empowering them with the tools they need to make informed environmental decisions.


Challenges

Some of these benefits also seeded challenges, with educators noting how the interdisciplinary nature of natural capital concepts can be challenging for students who have been conditioned to have a narrower focus. Educators also struggled with finding the right data and resources - habitat maps, case studies, illustrations and video content - to engage their students with these concepts.


Next steps

Natural Capital Ireland will continue to track the awareness and application of natural capital and ecosystem services concepts within higher education and wider society. We aim to address the challenges educators are facing by developing additional learning resources and case studies, and by working directly with educators to build interdisciplinary curricula on natural capital and ecosystem services.


Thanks to everyone who participated in this research! You can read through the responses in more detail within the survey report and sign up here to receive updates on our research in this area and educational resources in development.

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